How to ruin a brands' online reputation - or not


Your brand reputation is the single most crucial factor in the success of your company. An excellent reputation increases your customer loyalty, lead generation, and competitive advantage. A bad reputation lowers your sales and makes people look at your business in a negative light.


In today’s fast-paced and connected world, it’s not hard to ruin your hard-earned reputation by mistake. Many organizations have done so in the past. Luckily, there are steps you can take to avoid reputational mishaps from happening to you.

Here are six ways to avoid the most common brand reputation catastrophes.

1. Monitoring fail: CEO Sleeps with Farm Animals

It's quite easy for an individual with a bone to pick, and a little knowledge of how Google works, to ruin a company's reputation online. Search engines don't display truth (though they try), instead, they return results based on relevance. One of the signals Google uses is the click rate of headlines and the amount of time a person remains on the page. These are just two of the signals that tell search engines that a result is a good one and deserves high rankings. But those signals can be hijacked. 

People are drawn to negativity. That's why so many clickbait headlines have a negative slant - people click on them. A search result that says "Acme Company CEO Sleeps with Farm Animals" is going to garner a lot more clicks than something less sensational. Those clicks are signals to Google to increase the visibility of content with negative sentiment

Anyone can write almost anything. And if they are careful and use Tor proxies and the like they often won't get caught. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act also protects them.

Companies need to act quickly to negative sentiment, but you can't unless you know what is going on. To solve this problem - to some degree - monitor your brand online. Here are a few tools

2: Company data leaks. Real or perceived.

A study by the Ponemon Institute found that 65% of companies don’t have a policy for managing passwords. As a result, most employees end up using the same password for several purposes. By doing so, they make it easier for data thieves to discover a password from one source.

If we take a look at the 2017 LinkedIn data breach, for example, we can see that most people don't have secure passwords. Analysts discovered that 35% of all LinkedIn accounts used passwords that already existed. No matter how complex these passwords were, they could still get compromised. Hackers could match them against a wordlist of known passwords and login.

The following tips can help you prevent a data breach:

Identify your most important data

The first step to stopping a data leak is to point out the data that needs the most protection. Then use data loss prevention software to secure your information.

You shouldn’t try to do everything in one go. It’s a good idea to roll out your plan on a small scale first. Let your employees test things out before committing to full deployment.

Keep track of your network activity

The average hacker spies on a network for six months before taking action. You can stop them by using a Data Activity Monitoring (DAM) solution. It will allow you to detect abnormal behavior before a breach occurs.

DAMs will also enable you to track all resources in your network. You will get a real-time picture of what's happening in your network, and alerts of any security issues.

Use encryption

Using encryption is the best way to improve the security of your company. A good encryption process can protect you from even the most sophisticated attacks.

Any data that makes it out of an encrypted system will be unreadable and useless to anyone who views it.

Secure all endpoints

Many organizations today have a bring your own device (BYOD) policy. This policy is great for employees, but it can create a variety of security challenges. It's often harder to secure BYOD. Mostly because there are many platforms involved and operating systems that need support.

Companies must also be able to keep track of all personal devices connected to the network. Otherwise, data breaches can go undetected for extended periods of time. And lead to more severe vulnerabilities.

Organizations can avoid this by using advanced security monitoring solutions. They can also use standard security technologies. For example, network firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, and secure web gateways.

It’s important to use these technologies and enforce best practices with your employees. This will help prevent any data leakages from affecting your brand.

3: Telling lies

Companies often tell lies to defend their reputation and cover up mistakes. In most cases, these lies become harder to keep. And they end up destroying the brand's reputation.

According to a Bloomberg article, the damage done by lying CEOs often lasts for five years. That's the case even if the lying employee leaves the company.

Here’s what you need to do to build a corporate culture of honesty within your organization:

Explain the importance of honesty

You might want to add honesty in your mission statement or handbook. Explain to your employees how telling lies to the media or keeping secrets creates problems. Best not so say anything, but refer to your crisis management team (they should have a plan in place). 

Seek constructive feedback

Create a culture where everyone feels empowered to share their honest feedback. This will allow them to improve upon past mistakes.

Take the time to schedule meetings with your team leaders to listen to their updates and ideas. Provide candid feedback and encourage your employees to do the same for each other.

Also, allow your employees to make honest critiques of anyone’s work. This will create greater transparency and increase the quality of your products.

Punishing employees for being honest about a problem or mistake often makes things worse. Reward them instead. Use an incentive that isn't tied to their salary.

Employees of large companies may be more likely to lie when their only motivation is salary. They may keep things hidden so that they can get a more significant bonus or a promotion.

4: Being careless on social media

In today’s hyper-connected world, word travels fast. What you may consider a harmless remark could come back to bite you within minutes. It may even cause your social media profile to go viral for all the wrong reasons.

The best way to protect yourself from a brand reputation disaster is to create a social media policy. In it, you should outline how your organization and its employees should conduct themselves online.

Follow the steps below when creating your policy:

Lay out the rules

Create a summary highlighting how your employees should behave. And how they should conduct themselves on behalf the company on social media.

Explain the tone they should use when talking about your products or services. How they should respond to brand mentions, and what information they can disclose.

The fact that your company has a policy in place can go a long way simply because people are aware of the risk, and know the company is paying attention. 

Delegate tasks to your team

Delegate the right employees to different social media governance tasks. For example, you can create a document outline who’s in charge of approving messages. Then explain who should respond to customers, engage with followers, and train staff. Again, a crisis management plan should outline various levels and types of crisis, as well as responses. 

Address any legal issues

Seek out the help of a lawyer to set rules for managing different scenarios in your social media policy. For example, crediting sources, privacy and disclosure procedures, and employee disclaimers.

Highlight security threats

Avoid ransomware and phishing attacks by training your employees. Teach them how to create secure passwords. Explain the steps to preventing malicious threats. And outline how they should respond to security breaches or attacks. 

For example, the Stuxnet virus that took down Irans centerfuge system was delivered on seemingly innocuous thumb drives. When employees picked up the drives from the parking log and later plugged them into their PC's, the virus was unleashed. 

5: Treating customers badly

Most people check reviews today. Bad reviews can sink a company.

This may seem obvious, but customers are the lifeblood of your business. Without them, you’ll have no sales, no revenue, no profit, and no income. So, don't treat your customers like disposable objects. The word will travel fast, and your brand’s reputation will suffer.

Of course, every brand has priority customers. But you can still make everybody feel like a somebody. Follow the steps below, and your customers will feel more valued:

Measure customer satisfaction regularly

A study by LeeResources, Inc. showed that 91% of your unhappy customers will never buy services from you again. Measuring their satisfaction on a regular basis can help you keep them happy.

The metrics you should measure include:

  • Customer expectation vs. perception
  • Likelihood to recommend to friends
  • Customer experience vs. ideal experience
  • Overall satisfaction
  • Purchase intention

Build customer loyalty to increase customer satisfaction

Customer loyalty is priceless. It prevents your customers from being overly influenced by competitors and increases customer satisfaction.

You can increase customer loyalty by:

  • Remembering special occasions like birthdays
  • Empowering and educating your customers
  • Investing in a self-service support channel
  • Talking to your customers to find out and deliver what they want

Use Email and social media to increase customer satisfaction

On average, it costs a company $234 every time they lose a customer. You can’t afford to miss out on using email and social media to track customer satisfaction. How much does the loss of one customer cost your company? How much does a bad customer review or article cost your company? The second number is probably higher. 

It seems like a small thing, but sending follow up emails with to your customers after the sale can make a big difference in the ratio of negative to positive reviews your brand receives. 

You can then use your social media to track brand mentions and sentiment. In addition to providing customer support, and holding Q&A sessions with customers.

Recipe for ruin 6: Talking politics, race, or religion

Think of the My Pillow guy.

Unless your business focuses on these topics, your customer-facing staff should never talk about them. Even if they have the most positive intentions, there’s always a risk of misinterpretation. People like people like themselves. Forgetting that may mean that customers could see your opinion in a negative light and stop doing business with you.

A good way to prevent that from happening is to create a detailed buyer persona. Your persona will help you identify your target audience. It will tell your team of the types of topics they can talk about. And also create greater consistency in your communication.

If you don’t have the information you need on hand to create your persona, don't worry. You can consult with your sales team, interview your support staff, or conduct one-on-one customer interviews to find out more about your audience.

Once that’s done, follow the steps below to build your persona:

Step 1: Figure out your ideal audience

Start by identifying the person who will benefit the most from your content efforts. Who are they? What are their demographic characteristics? What’s job title do they have? What kind of company/industry do they work in?

Step 2: Identify your persona’s goals

Write down the specific goals, responsibilities, and challenges they may face at work. This will give you get a better idea of your persona's pain points and the solutions you can provide to them.

Step 3: Determine your persona’s authority

Determine your persona’s role in the company’s purchasing decisions. This will help you to uncover the best way to approach content conversations on and offline.

Step 4: Find out what content your persona likes

Include insights into the types of content your persona’s interested in. Be sure to mention their favorite content platforms, social channels, and formats.

Step 5: Share your persona with your employees

Once you’ve collected all the details needed to build your persona, share it with your content team and any customer-facing roles. They should be able to start creating content ideas and assets that align with the needs and goals of your persona.


It's been said many times - It takes years to build a good brand reputation. However, it only takes a few minutes to destroy it. Once it’s damaged, it can never return to the way it was. Your customers and stakeholders may even boycott your company and the memory may last years. 

The best solution to avoiding a brand catastrophe is prevention. By preventing one from happening in the first place, you put your organization in a better position to succeed in the long term.


How can you prevent a data breach?

Identify your most important data. Keep track of your network activity. Use encryption. Secure all endpoints. Use good data hygiene practices.

How do you build a corporate culture of honesty?

Teach team members the importance of honesty. Maintain a strong dialogue with consumers and seek constructive feedback.

How do you create a social media policy?

Lay out the rules. Delegate tasks to your team. Address any legal issues. Highlight security threats.

How do you make customers feel more valued?

Measure customer satisfaction regularly. Build customer loyalty to increase customer satisfaction. Use Email and social media to increase customer satisfaction.

How do you build a company persona?

1. Figure out your ideal audience. 2. Identify your persona’s goals. 3. Determine your persona’s authority. 4. Find out what content your persona likes. 5. Share your persona with your employees.

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